Mitt Romney And Jon Huntsman Provide The LDS Church An Opportunity To Educate

Mormon prophet Joseph Smith was hunted down by a mob and shot to death while imprisoned in an Illinois jail cell. Because he was a heretic.

Today, a less murderous drama continues to play out in communities around the world, and now with two Mormons running for President of The United States, the media is inserting itself into the fray. According to Forbes:

Just about everything Joseph Smith said and did contradicts doctrines of the established Protestant Christian denominations and Catholicism in its Roman and Eastern Orthodox forms. He was, in the parlance of orthodox Christianity, a heretic, and if there’s one thing most Christians can agree on, it’s that the church Smith built has no place in their ranks.

Of course, the Latter Day Saints have a response to this line of thinking. The church is run from Salt Lake City like the prominent and powerful global enterprise that it is. And its leaders have long invested in telling Smith’s story in compelling ways. Interestingly, Brigham Young University in Provo is home to a well known advertising program, and there are many Mormon-owned and run agencies in Salt Lake City serving all sorts of national and local accounts. In fact, I used to work for one.

The church also has its own internal team of communications pros at the ready, and they’ve been busy of late. Let’s take a look:

There you have it, Joseph Smith was no heretic. He was a seeker of truth, say his followers.

One thing I find interesting in all this is a lack of historical perspective and an active disdain for American values. Pilgrims crossed an ocean to go it alone in the new world, in many cases so they could be free to practice their religion. Yet, there’s little to no tolerance for a new religion born on these soils?

Yes, there is an arrogance in the idea that Mormons are Latter Day Saints with a truer understanding of Jesus’ teachings than everyone else. And that arrogance upsets orthodox Christians who are perfectly fine with the interpretations laid down by the apostles and translated by monks. Even so one thing is abundantly clear, Mormons believe in Jesus, and their belief ought to provide plenty of common ground with others who believe.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. This spot seems a sort of Merchants of Doubt type of strategy: “Gosh aren’t there just so many religions out there? Gosh it’s hard to know who’s an expert and who’s not. Gosh we’re all so confused, but you know what? You can’t deny your feelings, and you feel like we feel.”

    This is clearly directed to low-information voters (as it were), people with no current religious affiliation and/or very little religious education in their background. It’s like the Jack Handey version of Dude, You’re Getting A Dell.

    I’m no fan of Maureen Dowd but her recent column on this does a pretty good job of itemizing the articles of Mormon faith that are problematic when it comes to public perception. And it includes a great line from a BYU prof who observes that while it’s fair to call Mormons Christians (hey, it’s in the church name so how could they not be, right?) they are not part of the Christian family tree.

    I’m guessing the main goal here is simply communicating a normalizing vibe to potential new members, and in that the ad may be effective. Understanding the radically unorthodox beliefs and practices of the church makes one a lot less likely to support its efforts to shoehorn it into the canon of American and global institutions, so they are smart to focus their attention on the huge number of people who still don’t.